Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

We have finally received our pictures from our NILMDTS photographer, Andrea! Please visit her website, here. She does amazing work, and we are so beyond impressed with the images we received from her. I wrote about NILMDTS in one of my first posts, but here's another link to their website if you'd like to read more about them. I can't say enough about this organization. The gift they give to bereaved parents is so precious - I don't even think I can put it into words. I spent many hours during my pregnancy looking at infant photographers' websites, and was so looking forward to having Olivia's newborn portraits done. If it wasn't for this organization, we would have been left with only the images from our own camera. While those are beautiful too, and we are lucky to have so many, professional photographs (especially these) capture the moment like nothing else can. I could probably type for hours about how thankful Kurt and I are for these pictures.

Isn't she beautiful?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas!

... Or Merry 2 days AFTER Christmas. :)

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God.
Luke 1:35

For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whosoever believe in Him
should not perish but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

Kurt is playing his new Madden 2010 xbox game, and I'm laying on the couch - finally allowing ourselves to relax after running around like chickens with our heads cut off for the last couple of days!

Although Christmas was different than we had been expecting it to be (My due date is in 3 days, so we both had assumed that I'd either be HUGELY Pregnant on Christmas, we'd be in th hopital, or we'd have a brand new baby at home with us), but we were SO blessed to have such an amazing holiday with family. We're fortunate to still live in the city as both of our parents and siblings... it's nice to be able to spend holidays with both sides and not have to travel! MANY families had to cancel or postpone their Christmas celebrations because of the ridiculous blizzard conditions, I'm so glad we didn't have to!

On Christmas Eve, the snow started.... and never stopped! We were so lucky to be able to get to church. Many other churches cancelled their Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day services because of the weather - ours cancelled all but one! I'm so glad we were able to go... it definitely wouldn't have felt like Christmas if we'd had to miss it.

It was a very busy Christmas for us! After church on Christmas Eve, we went back to Kurt's parents' house to eat and open gifts. Then it was on to my Grandma's to open gifts and spend time with my Mom's side of the family. On the way home, we got the jeep stuck in the snow at the entrance to our complex! Kurt tried so hard to get it out, we even walked to the apartment to change into snow clothes, and had his mom drive out to give us shovels! Nothing worked, so luckily a truck with a snow plow passed us and pulled us out with a chain. When we finally got inside, Kurt and I exchanged gifts. We went to Christmas morning at my parents' house and opened gifts. Then back to the Miller's for dinner. In the evening, we returned to my parents' house for dinner #2!  Kurt worked over night, slept all day, and then had to go BACK to work again for an evening shift! While he worked, I went over to my Aunt Allisons for Christmas with my Dad's side of the family. I went back to my parents house, and Kurt picked me up on his way home from work.

Kurt and I gave each other meaningful gifts this year. He gave me a beautiful ring and necklace set with Olivia's birthstone. He actually bought it for me when we were at the mall trying to find something to wear to her funeral (not a very fun shopping trip). He let me wear the ring right away, but made me wait until Christmas for the necklace. I gave him a keychain, engraved with "daddy" on one side, and the otherside said "Daddy's tiny angel", Olivia's name, birth date, and weight. I couldn't wait to give it to him, so he opened it a couple of weeks ago.

We also received some amazing "Olivia" gifts from our parents.  Kurt's mom and dad named a star for Olivia. I almost started crying when Kurt unwrapped the framed certificate. I love knowing that she'll have something named for her that will exist in the universe forever. My dad gave us a beautiful ornament for our Christmas tree. It's a pink prism, in the shape of a star. There's a story behind it - when I was little, he and I would sit on the front porch all the time, looking at the stars. I asked him where they came from, and he told me that when someone dies, God puts a star in the sky for their families to remember them by. I had him point out my Grandpa's star and my sister, Katie's. It's one of my favorite memories that I have with my dad. He wrote a beautiful letter to go along with the ornament, explaining that we now have our own "star" in the sky to bring us comfort. Of course, I cried when I read it! Isn't it amazing how well these gifts go together? It's almost like our parents got together and coordinated.

Aren't we lucky to have such amazing, supportive families? I don't know how we would have gotten through this past month without them. We are truly blessed. Words cannot express how grateful we are to them.

Kurt and I gave "I ♥ Grandpa" and "I ♥ Grandma" frames for both sets of grandparents. Pictures go in each of the letters, so each frame is filled with nine pictures of Livie. Our parents really seemed to love them. It felt so good to actually give something meaningful for Christmas this year. I was more excited for them to open these than I was to see any of my own presents. A much better feeling than just picking something up at Target. Hopefully we'll be able to come up with something creative to give next year!

I don't have the Christmas pictures from our camera uploaded yet... but here's some pictures that I took a couple of weeks ago of our apartment all decorated for the holidays! Also, there are pictures of some of our special "Olivia" ornaments.

Christmas garland, picks, beads and lights on our TV stand... since we don't have a mantle in this tiny apartment :)
Our weird heater thing with Olivia's angel bear that plays silent night, and Kurt's bronco stuff (notice the stocking hat, haha). And, our stockings. We bought the little pink one for Olivia a couple of weeks ago. It didn't feel right to hang out little "family" of stockings without having one for her up there too.
Our *first* Christmas tree!!
It's a little hard to see, but we took that tiny Christmas tree down on the floor in front of the presents to the Cemetary for Olivia about a week ago. It has a pink snowflake "Baby's first Christmas" ornament on it. Luckily, we got there before the snow storm!
The Broken Chain
We little knew that morning that
God was going to call your name.
In life we loved you dearly.
In death we do the same.
It broke our hearts to lose you.
You did not go alone,
for part of us went with you
the day God called you home.
You left us peaceful memories.

Your love is still our guide.
And though we cannot see you,
you are always at our side.
Our family chain is broken
and nothing seems the same,
but as God calls us one by one,
the Chain will link again.

This poem came with a beautiful ornament that my mom bought us at parables - she brought it over to our apartment the day we came home from the hospital. It's amazing how the smallest gifts can mean so much! I don't know if it's very visible in this picture since it's so small, but he bottom link of the chain is broken off.

Kurt and I bought this one ourselves from Parables when we were Christmas shopping. It looks even prettier in person - the angel's head is a pearl and the wings are glass. She REALLY sparkles in the light.

I don't want to bombard everyone with pictures of ornaments, but we have a few other special family ornaments: A "Future Mr. and Mrs., 2009" Lennox, a Snow Baby one that's an angel sitting inside of a Christmas present, and says "gift from god" on it. We also have an angel frame ornament with Olivia's picture inside of it, and a pair of porcelain Hallmark baby shoes that we got from my parents while we were in the hospital, right after Livie was born. These will hang at the very top of our tree every year! At some point I'll have to stop myself from buying new ones all the time. I'll post pictures of the special ones we got FOR Christmas when I get around to uploading them :)

Our pretty table with a centerpiece I made and new Christmas dishes!

Garland in the Kitchen... and last but not least, what Christmas house would be complete, without Santa on a chopper? (2 guesses of who bought THAT decoration! haha).

Merry Belated Christmas everyone! I don't know that we would have been able to make it through this Holiday season as well as we did without the love and support that we've received from each of you. We are blessed in many ways.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy One Month Birthday Livie Bear!

Olivia was born ONE month ago today! Can you believe it? I certainly can’t. Time has literally been flying… I can’t believe it’s already been so long! All the details are so fresh in my mind that I feel like we just left the hospital. What a crazy month.

I don’t think I can even put into words how much Kurt and I miss our little girl. We are constantly thinking of her every hour that we’re awake. She’s the first thing we think of before we fall asleep, and the first thing we think of when we wake up. We are happy when we think of her. We both try to avoid thinking about “what would be” or “what if”. God planned Olivia’s life, and He wanted it to be exactly the way it was – short, sweet, precious. Both of us really believe, trust, and find comfort in that. Don’t get me wrong, we were excited about doing so many things with Livie, and I do get sad when I think about those things sometimes (and sometimes, I get REALLY sad)… BUT I know that God had all of our days with Olivia planned before she was even created. We will get to do ALL of the things that we were excited for… someday, just not with Livie. It really helps us to remind ourselves that Olivia lived the exact life that she was supposed to live… for exactly as many days, minutes and seconds that she was supposed to live it. One day, God will bless Kurt and I with another baby who will be just as perfect and beautiful (or handsome… if it’s a boy), and we will be even better prepared to experience all of those things that we have been imagining.
Being Livie's parents has changed both of us for the better. It has made us capable of seeing what really matters in life... so many things that seemed important to us before, are completely insignificant now. I can't believe how much time I wasted on things that never really mattered. Kurt has said many times that that little girl changed his whole outlook on life, and made him want to speak, think, and act differently. Not that we were horrible people before hand, but ya know. :) It has also taught us not to take anything for granted - we are learning about how important it is to cherish the little things in life, and to live in the moment rather than constantly looking toward the future, because we found out the hard way that the future is never certain.

I know that lots of people are anxious to hear how we're doing, so I will post again soon with an actual update on what's been going on for the past month.

Bring The Rain..

Early in my pregnancy, I somehow stumbled across the blog of Angie Smith, called Bring the Rain. She and her husband, Todd, live in Nashville, and have 4 beautiful little daughters. They found out 20 weeks into Angie’s pregnancy with their fourth, Audrey Caroline, that she had poly cystic kidneys, a heart too big for her little body, there was no amniotic fluid and her lungs were not developing – all fatal conditions. Angie and Todd were given the option to terminate the pregnancy, and decided quickly not to. Angie started the blog right when they found out this news, and used it to communicate the details to family and friends. Audrey was born via c-section in April of 2008, and lived for about two hours and 45 minutes. The blog tells such an amazing story of the way that God worked through Angie, Todd and Audrey. [There’s a reason I’m explaining this… stick with me :)]. Todd is a singer for a pretty well-known Christian group called Selah. When they first heard the news about Audrey, he and Angie wrote a song for her called “Carry You”. MONTHS ago I put this quote from that song on my facebook profile. They were obviously writing this for a child that they knew they would lose, but for the most part it is appropriate for any new mother (or father)…

“I will carry you
While your heart beats here
Long beyond the empty cradle
Through the coming years
I will carry you
All your life
And I will praise the One whose chosen Me
To carry you”

So, I posted it to my own profile, fully expecting to have a perfectly healthy baby girl. I just thought it was sweet.

At the bottom of Bring the Rain is a little play list of music. One of the songs on that playlist was/is Glory Baby – the song we played at the beginning of Olivia’s service. I used to listen to this song over and over while I read about Audrey’s story late at night when Kurt would be working.

Angie’s blog now has thousands upon thousands of followers. When she delivered Audrey, radio stations across the country were announcing that she was in surgery. That day, her blog received hits from every state in the US and more than 90 countries. She still discusses Audrey there, but it has transformed into SO much more than that – this woman is doing some serious good, that she never would have imagined herself doing if it wasn’t for Audrey.

I told my mom about this blog, back then, and how amazed I was at the strength of this family – I didn’t understand how they could be holding their baby, KNOWING that she wasn’t going to be leaving the hospital with them, and still be singing, laughing, taking pictures of her, bathing her, etc. I was so blown away by their ability to be happy when they knew their baby was hours away from passing away. Every time I told someone that I was reading her story, they told me to stop because I was going to scare myself and make myself worry unnecessarily. I never worried, and I regularly checked it for updates all throughout my pregnancy.

One night while still in the hospital after Olivia passed away, I was in bed with my computer and Kurt was sleeping. I went to my list of Favorites, and clicked on the familiar link to Bring the Rain. As I was waiting for the page to load, I remembered that I’d put that quote from Angie’s song on my facebook. “How ironic”, I thought.

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting here in the living room, searching on Amazon for Christian books about infant loss. I had seen quite a few about miscarriage and stillbirth online and at Parables and had purchased a couple books that were geared towards all three, but I was trying to find something more specifically geared towards what Kurt and I experienced. And then I saw it – “I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy”, by Angie Smith… available for pre-order. (You better believe I pre-ordered that baby as fast as I possibly could!)

Are you kidding me? I couldn’t BELIEVE it!

Now I know why reading about Audrey’s story never scared me… why I listened to “Glory Baby” repeatedly, and why I felt the need to put the quote from “I Will Carry You” on my facebook. God Led me to Bring the Rain for a reason. It was not ironic, it was not an accident, and I didn't "stumble" across it as I thought I had. I was able to draw so much emotional and spiritual strength from these things without even realizing it… and had I never “found” this blog, I know that I could not have handled things as well as I have. I don’t know that I would have been able to make our time with Olivia a joyous time. [As for Kurt, I don’t know where he gets his strength from… maybe he’s just that amazing :)]. I also know that these past three and a half weeks at home would have been harder for me had I not been able to read Angie’s posts from back when she was first at home, recovering from her c-section after they lost their Audrey.

Thanks to everyone who just read all of that! I just put that all together in my head over the last few days, and I was so overwhelmed by it all that I felt I needed to share it. Please check out Angie’s blog. I linked to the main page above, but this one is to the beginning of their journey. (Scroll to the bottom to start at the beginning)

I want to end this post this morning with a quote from a letter that Angie wrote to Audrey. I re-read this the other day for the first time since Olivia was born, and it affected me totally differently (not surprisingly). Swap out the “2 ½” hours with “3 days” and it’s EXACTLY the way Kurt and I both feel about Olivia. People have been asking us how in the world we aren’t just a complete wreck right now. This does an amazing job of explaining, and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I cry for you often. I miss the smell of your skin and your perfect little nose. My arms ache from emptiness. I tell your daddy all the time that I just want to hold you again. I cannot see to write these words because my eyes overflow with the tears of a mother who has been asked to give her daughter away. I knew I would love you when I met you. I knew you would become a part of me. What I didn't know was that instead of feeling like it was a brief encounter, I feel like the world stood still. He somehow gave us an entire lifetime of memories in such a short time. I didn't feel like I lost a baby, I felt like I said goodbye to someone I had always known, who had been my daughter for years and years. Even now, as I write, it seems impossible that you were only with us for 2 1/2 hours. Thank you Lord, for giving us all the time we could have asked for with her. The clock was insignificant... we knew her deeply, a lifetime's worth.

Perfect Words.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Olivia's Nursery

I just wanted to share some pictures of Livie's bedroom. We had it almost all the way finished before she was born, but we finished everything when we came home from the hospital. Olivia won't be coming home to spend time in it, but it's still her room, and it felt wrong to leave it unfinished. We hadn't brought the rocking chair over to our apartment yet (It's in my parents' basement), so Kurt came up with the idea to buy a loveseat or a big chair to go in the empty corner so that we can use it as a quiet room to relax and remember our little one. Hopefully we'll be able to do that soon!

Olivia's crib that Daddy put together

Close up of the letters that I painted, along with part of Livie's bedding, and wooden pegs I found to match.

Our two favorite things - Livie's teddy bear snow suit and her pink and white outfit that we were planning on using as her "coming home" outfit from the hospital. You can't tell, but it says "Thank heaven for little girls" - I loved the pink outfit they gave to us to use in the hospital because it said the same thing.


Pink and Orange shelves that I painted to match everything else

Livie's dresser, along with the animal paintings that I did. The elephant is wearing Daddy's hair cover from my c-section.